Although we have thus far in our blog mostly discussed fentanyl adulteration of powders, fentanyl is also being used in fake pressed pills. Since the country became aware of the damage being done by prescription opioids such as Oxycontin (extended release oxycodone) and Percocet (instant release oxycodone), the prescription of those drugs has taken a deep dive. Oxycontin also has a new formula which prevents people from crushing or cooking the drug. With this steep decline in supply, demand has all but gone away, with drug users still in search of oxycodone.
Drug suppliers have realized that with this gap, and easily and cheaply sourced fentanyl, they can produce their own fake oxycodone using clandestine pill pressing devices and see huge profits.
In August 2019 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency caught a 22-year-old Orange County man who was doing just this, selling fake oxycodone pills via the darknet. Going by the moniker “Oxygod”, Wyatt Pasek would buy fentanyl and an analogue called cyclopropyl fentanyl from china and use a pill press to make what looked like authentic oxycodone. When they raided his Newport Beach apartment they discovered nearly 100,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills. Pasek now faces 210 months in federal prison.
Historically, drug users would view prescription opioids as more safe than heroin, as the potency of these pills was precise. Unfortunately, this line of thinking no longer holds up with the rise of counterfeit pharmaceuticals that are indistinguishable from the real thing.